The waves on Fiji s shore roll to vacant crowds. With political unrest embracing the capital, Suva, the nation's tourism industry has reached a virtual standstill. As in the 1987 Fijian coup this years has experienced downfall in the arrivals of tourists to the Fijian Islands as well as the South Pacific region, with the threat of worse to come. Although political turmoil is no stranger to the region's 13 island nations, only twice in the post-colonial era has democracy come under threat on both occasions in Fiji. Fiji stands out amongst the Pacific Island nations for having the largest population and the highest level of economic and social development. It is therefore seen as an epicentre for the region. Fiji consists of 330 islands of which the two largest are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The capital is Suva, on the south eastern coast of Viti Levu. The other city is Lautoka situated on the north western coast of Viti Levu. However through the eyes of the tourist to all the other islands in the region, which means any effect on one can be seen as an effect on all. After two military coups in 1987 the region was set for a time of economic prosperity as a result of the broadcasted publicity it had during intervals of the Americas Cup Campaign in late 1999 and early 2000. The overthrow of a democratically elected Government, little over a year old, and enforcing a racially based rule of law however has not amused the International Community, and has affected the Tourism industry. Coup leader George Speight and an armed gang claiming to be fighting for the rights of Fiji's indigenous majority held dozens of hostages, including deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and other members of his government. As the stand-off in a sense has ended, tourist operators across picturesque Fiji are wondering when they ll be out of work if things don t improve soon. In the early days of the coup, resort owners and tourist operators downplayed the effects on the industry, saying there had only been a small number of cancellations. But now, with the coup ended, they tell a different story. "Of the 8,000 people that are employed directly in the tourism industry, probably four to five thousand will, unless something changes in the next few weeks, lose their jobs, a reflection in the downfall of arrivals. Before the coup, About 1,500 people were arriving each day. The number has now dropped to about 400. Now is peak season when the island resorts are usually fully booked and the beaches are lined with sunbathers, escaping the bitterness of harsh New Zealand winters. But under the present circumstances, the miles of beaches and island airstrips are empty. Yachts are moored rather than cruising in clear waters and nearly every tourist type equipment from swimming pools to scuba gear lie idle. During the 1987 coups there was mass exodus from the region, of skilled, intelligent ethnic Indians. The same is expected to occur if the rule of law were to reside with only indigenous Fijians. From the 1987 coups to the mid-1990s, about one in seven of the Indian community left Fiji. Resulting in a vacancy of highly illiterate people a loss to a generation of entrepreneurs that would have attracted investment to the region with Tourism to follow. However because of this coup and the more heated racial subdivide, the movement of ethnic Indians is expected to be more rampant. The 1987 coup had a dramatic effect on the Fijian tourist industry, especially in Australia where 43% of Fiji's tourists originate. With the large decline in visitors to the Pacific s regional hub, the offset by resort managers was to set room prices at luxurious destinations at very low prices-some at ten dollars. Air Pacific a major carrier to the region see no need for lowering prices to the regions destinations, yet to the consumer. This I see as a problem to the arrival of visitors to the region. During the 1987 coup flight costs dropped to $239 return, in order to offset the uneasiness of travelling to still a hostile place, as the case should be now. This offset in prices appealed to the global tourists and soon saw tourism regain its place as the number one earner for the economies GDP. Even here in Dunedin travel agents are reporting heavy cancellations of Fiji travel and predicting a lean period ahead for the tourism-reliant island group. As the most dynamic industry over the last decade, tourism has played a key role in maintaining, but not increasing, the proportion of wage earning jobs available in the economy. However with the coup affecting this industry common people are to be affected in a severe way. It cannot be stressed enough how the coup could hardly have come at a worse time for the region. Last year saw record arrivals entering through the Airport terminal, even better in the first quarter of this year. It has been said also that improvements on accommodation were intended to appeal to the global tourist. According to reports the Fijian coup is at the moment costing around $NZ1 million a day in lost tourism earnings. Chief Executive Sitiveni Yaqona said in the first two weeks of June, the nation lost $20 million. Since the coup erupted visitor numbers have decreased. In the first two weeks, just 6831 visitors had arrived, with a daily average of 455 visitors. That compared with 38,455 for all of last June, at a daily average of 1281 people. With the main influx of tourists coming from New Zealand and Australia, the respective governments are still widely advising their citizens to stay away, causing the tourism downfall to intensify. I think that Fiji will still bounce back faster than the two prior coup s because the longer the Islands are without Tourist influx of dollars, resorts are unable to keep staff, and I do see in the near future that packages will be set to entice travellers back to the beautiful island. The Army is doing their best for the country by showing that they do not stand for the reasoning behind the coup, by arresting the leaders aswell, which in a way can be seen as a sense of relief to the international community and tourists as a whole. However even with my views of the early recovery, I still think it will take over a year for the whole region to rehabilitate. Bibliography Dick Smith, Director of Plantation Island Resort - Accessed via http://www.cyberlifestyle.com/miscellaneous/260600-1.asp Greg Fry, Political Analyst at Australian National University - quote given to Reuters Hall, C.M. 1997, Tourism in the Pacific Rim: Development, Impacts and Markets, Addison-Wesley Longman, South Melbourne www.bulafiji.com, a Fiji Visitors Centre, accessed from home on 9/8/00 www.foxnews.com, reporter H. Julian, accessed from home on 9/8/00 www.odt.co.nz, an article by Simon Hartley 1/6/2000
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